Rivers Are Damp

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Weekend Reading, Volume 14

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My allergies were acting up last weekend—I’m feeling much better now, thanks!—so this is a jumbo, post-sickness edition.  Here’s some of what I’ve been interested in the past two weeks.

  • We all know, of course, that flying isn’t as glamorous as it once was.  Or at all.  A NYT columnist, Michelle Higgins, served as a flight attendant on a busy day; the resulting piece is a must-read for frequent air travelers.  Also, spare a thought for the veteran flight attendant.  Says one: [W]e used to serve omelets and crepes for breakfast, and now it’s ‘Would you like to buy stackable chips or a big chocolate chip cookie for $3?’ (Be sure to check out the slideshow and first-person audio narrative that accompany the piece, too).
  • French researchers claim that the spread of the Roman Empire helps explain why persons in some regions are more vulnerable today to HIV.  According to the researchers, Roman soldiers probably carried a disease that was especially potent to persons carrying a particular gene, the CCR5-Delta32 variant.  Today, ironically, that gene variant is known to provide some protection against HIV.  In areas that were within the Empire for the longest time, the frequency of the gene is now only 0-6%.  In areas at the fringes of the Empire, the frequency is 8-11.8%.  And in areas outside the Empire, the frequency is still higher.
  • Where are all the fireflies going? Their numbers seem to be decreasing around the world.  How depressing!  I’m a big fan.  In the summer, my grandparents’ house would sometimes just be swimming in lightning bugs, and the grandkids, including me, would run around among them.  Many years later, when I was a poor grad student in Ohio, I’d pass the summer evenings by sitting on my second-floor balcony, watching all the fireflies.  It was so peaceful.
  • A British supermarket chain is giving into some cranky wordsmiths: It’s changing its express-aisle “10 items or less” signs to “10 items or fewer” notices.  I don’t think there’s much difference here in the States anymore between the two constructions.  But if you want to be fussy, here’s a primer.
  • Chrome, Google’s new browser, debuted on September 2, and I was immediately smitten.  The NYT had a good early review.  I especially like Chrome’s minimalist look and the way it allows me to visit my favorite sites by simply clicking on a thumbprint when the browser opens.  I’m pretty committed to Firefox, but Chrome may give it a run for my loyalty.  I’m probably apt to go with the one that uses the least of my precious memory….
  • You’d think a NYT article headlined “Vanishing Barns Signal a Changing Iowa” would actually contain more news and photos of old barns!  But the article is much more interested in detailing the rural-to-urban shift in Iowa.  I enjoyed the article, but I really want to know about the barns.  (The article did lead me to the website for the National Barn Alliance, which seems to be a worthy cause.)
  • Some silly ads in Vogue India depict the poorest of people carrying seriously high-end accessories.  Ugh.

Written by Jimmy

September 14th, 2008 at 4:01 pm

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